$37K sought in damages for Miss. sledgehammer raid

Published 1:59 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Prosecutors say two former bodyguards for late Jackson Mayor Frank Melton should pay $37,080 in restitution for a duplex and personal items damaged in a 2006 sledgehammer attack on a suspected crack house.

One of the bodyguards said in a motion filed Monday that’s way too much.

Melton and the bodyguards, who were Jackson police officers at the time, were accused of leading the vigilante raid on a duplex because Melton believed it was a drug den.

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Melton died this year and was never convicted of a crime relate to the raid. He was cleared of state charges and a federal jury couldn’t reach a verdict.

The bodyguards both pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution. Now the government and the bodyguards can’t agree on the amount.

It’s up to a judge to decide.

Prosecutors say the bodyguards should pay $10,050 to Evans Welch, who rented the duplex apartment, to cover everything from dentures — $400 — to 16 pairs of shoes, valued at $320. The owner of the duplex deserves $27,030 for the value of the property, the government argued in court filings.

“Monetary values were assigned to each of those items based on the cost to replace each item if it were purchased at a discount retailer,” prosecutors said in court papers.

One of the bodyguards, Michael Recio, filed a motion Monday saying the amount is excessive. Recio’s motion did not put a value on the duplex and contents.

The other bodyguard, Marcus Wright, said last week that Welch should get $1,000 and the duplex owner, Jennifer Sutton, $4,000.

Wright’s attorney said Sutton and Welch didn’t do anything to repair the property “or mitigate any damages” and, furthermore, Wright “did nothing with regard to any dentures!”

Welch, who allegedly had two crack pipes the night of the raid, originally claimed $1 million worth of lost items in the ramshackle structure before dropping that to $80,000 and then to $10,000, according to Wright’s attorney.

“Now an exhibit, obviously prepared by someone other than Mr. Welch, is ironically submitted and comes to $10,050,” Wright’s attorney, John Collette, wrote in court papers.

Collette also claims there’s overlap in the amount Sutton and Welch are seeking for items like a heater, stove and refrigerator.

“Plus, these were not ’damaged’ by either defendant,” the motion said.

A judge didn’t immediately rule on the matter.

Melton, a former television executive, died in May, soon after losing a bid for a second term and just days before he was to face a second federal trial related to the raid. He had said he only wanted to rid the city of a haven of illegal activity. Prosecutors say he went too far and abused his power.